Cell Phones Can Alert Individuals to Severe Weather

As Weather Ready Nation Ambassadors we want to remind you that in the fall, severe weather such as tornadoes and flash flooding can occur without warning. FEMA reminds the public to be aware of severe weather conditions in the area and know how to prepare

We are Ambassadors of NOAA & The Weather Ready Nation Program! We are Ambassadors of NOAA & The Weather Ready Nation Program!

for the unexpected. When severe weather occurs, imminent threat weather alerts can be sent directly to cell phones to give users a critical window of time to follow directions and to find safety.

These imminent threat weather alerts are just one type of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) that are sent directly to cell phones. The National Weather Service Forecast Offices send imminent threat weather alerts for severe weather warnings for tornadoes, flash floods, extreme wind, tsunami, hurricane, typhoon and dust storms. Local public safety officials may also send WEAs to cell phones for a wide range of emergency warnings.

Cell phones capable of receiving WEAs grab attention with a unique tone and vibration designed to alert individuals to an imminent threat in the area. All that is needed is a wireless device that receives the 90-character WEA messages. No signups are necessary to receive the free WEA alerts. WEAs are sent from cell towers in a warning area and resemble text messages. However, unlike text messages, WEAs use one-way cell broadcast technology that ensures the alerts will not get backlogged during times of emergency when networks are highly congested. The WEA is a “heads-up” that there is dangerous weather in the area. Local radio and TV sources can provide detailed warning information about the threat.

The availability of WEA alerts will depend on wireless carrier’s network availability and if individuals have a handset that can receive WEAs. To determine if a wireless device can receive WEA alerts, contact the appropriate wireless carrier for more information or check online. For a list of public safety agencies using WEA, visit www.fema.gov/integrated-public-alert-warning-system-authorities. State AMBER Coordinators in coordination with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children can also send WEAs for missing children and if ever an extreme national emergency were to occur, a presidential WEA could be sent to wireless devices.

States and counties interested in becoming alerting authorities can go to www.fema.gov/integrated-public-alert-warning-system-authorities for more information. Toolkits and other resources are also available online.

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